“Part of Our Community:” Retiring CENG Faculty and Staff Recognized

David Janzen, one of 14 College of Engineering employees to announce pending retirement, will continue to teach until June.

In January of 2010, not long after Android introduced its app market and Apple unveiled the iPhone App store, David Janzen launched a pioneering app development course at Cal Poly.

“Nobody knew if it was going to take off or not,” Janzen said of the emerging app technology in 2019. “But it had promise.”

Apps did take off.  And multiple students in Janzen’s course took advantage of the new frontier.

Janzen, a computer science professor at Cal Poly since 2006, is one of 14 College of Engineering faculty and staff who recently announced retirements.

“We have decades of service here,” said Dean Amy S. Fleischer at a recent college-wide meeting. “We are going to miss these people. They’ve been part of our community and part of our family for a very long time.”

Campus-wide, 92 employees are taking part in the Early Exit Program, which encourages employees to separate voluntarily through a severance package. The program was created to reduce an imminent budget deficit caused by the pandemic and reduced state funding.

Janzen, along with fellow Computer Science & Software Engineering Department faculty Kurt Mammen and Clint Staley, will remain on their staffs until spring and early summer. The others will retire by the end of December.

During the college-wide meeting, department chairs spoke about those retiring in 2020.

They include:

CIVIL AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING

Lorinda Esparza – The administrative support coordinator has served in multiple roles at the College of Engineering since joining Cal Poly in 2007. After handling events and activities, including functions related to the Summer Undergraduate Research Program, for the Dean’s Office, she joined the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, helping with a backlog that developed after a previous outgoing employee.

“In the short time she’s been with us, she’s had a great impact,” said Department Chair Charles Chadwell.

Xi Shen – The equipment systems specialist started working at Cal Poly in 2006. Recently he served as one of the technical advisors to a team of students that finished second in the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute’s Seismic Design Competition, held in San Diego in early March.

ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING:

Jaime Carmo – The equipment technician started working in the Electrical Engineering Department in 1987, making him one of the longer serving veterans of the department.

“He has extensive knowledge of all of our EE labs – where everything is – so we’ll definitely be missing him,” said Dale Dolan, co-interim chair of the department.

Lani Woods — After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from CSU San Marcos, Woods went to work for her alma mater as an administrative coordinator and would continue to work in San Marcos for nearly 14 years before joining Cal Poly in 2007. Known as the “go to” for anyone needing help with a department issue – and a strong advocate for the Academic Resources Conference – she was an administrative analyst in the Electrical Engineering Department.

Woods left in October.

“We’re already feeling the impact of her not being around,” Dolan said.

INDUSTRIAL AND MANUFACTURING ENGINEERING

Karen Bangs – Outside the department, Bangs is known as the college safety coordinator, implementing best practices and procedures and offering useful tips during college-wide meetings that would help keep colleagues safe. But the Cal Poly grad also brought nearly two decades of of industry experience to her 15-year career as a lecturer in the department.

“She has great leadership skills coming from industry, and she showed them a lot in our department,” said Department Chair Dan Waldorf.

Bangs served as director of the Women in Engineering Program from 2007-2010.

Nick Sweeney – After earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal Poly, Sweeney went on to work at his alma mater for 35 years as a network analyst and instructor.

He acted behind-the-scenes to troubleshoot, research and innovate, keeping an extensive web of software and hardware configurations working smoothly.

Often working nights and weekends, Sweeney helped the department develop computing labs and hands-on lab experiences in industrial automation.

“He’s always been a whiz at technology,” Waldorf said.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

 Jeff Nadel – The college’s IT coordinator not only helped individuals with technical issues, but he also assisted with technology for events and infrastructure.

He has also been a “tireless voice of advocacy for our staff,” Fleischer noted, referring to his work with the employees union.

Most recently, Nadel has served as president of San Luis Obispo chapter of the Cal State University Employees Union.

MECHANICAL ENGINEERING

Larry Coolidge – “Larry has served our department as our ‘IT magician’ for 21 years,” said Department Chair Jim Widmann.

The technical support coordinator identified cost-effective solutions that led to numerous upgrades of department computing equipment. And he provided extensive after-hours assistance to faculty and students.

“Most of us will think of Larry for his incredible dedication to our educational mission,” Widmann said.

Vera Flores — Over nearly two decades, Flores served multiple administrative roles at Cal Poly, most recently as assistant to the chair.

“She has served as the face of the department and saw our department grow 50 percent during her time here,” Widmann said.

While department chairs rotated through her tenure, Widmann said, Flores was a consistent presence.

Flores also served as a representative for the California State University Employees Union.

“And I think we can all thank her for her efforts in calling out the parking problems on campus,” Widmann said.

Jim Gerhardt – The longest serving of the retirees, Gerhardt has worked 37 years as an electrical mechanical technician.

“In 37 years, he’s seen so many changes, I can’t even think about it,” Widmann said. “It’s hard to fathom what our program would be without him. He has kept our laboratories running.”

Gerhardt was instrumental, Widmann added, in planning Building 192 and establishing the aero hangar and Mustang ’60 machine shops while also helping the department focus on safety issues.

“Our safety record is incredible thanks to him,” Widmann said.

Scott Patton – A lecturer for 17 years, Patton was “incredibly knowledgeable about fluids,” Widmann said. 

Patton has already left the university, having put his house on the market and moved to Oregon to be near his granddaughter.

The Cal Poly College of Engineering understands there has been an enormous amount of turmoil and transition due to Coronavirus (COVID-19). As we continue offering support to our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends, we also continue providing critical updates as well as college highlights. Ours is a college full of creative and bright engineers and staff. For more information on COVID-19 visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. For more information on how Cal Poly is responding to COVID-19, visit the Cal Poly Coronavirus website Coronavirus website.

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